Posted in Character Stories

Fate and Fortune

We’re eating Chinese food. Again. It seems to be Ashby’s absolute favorite. Take out boxes stick out of the top of the garbage can as I shove in the last few and then return to the fridge to put away the leftovers. 

“Come eat. I can take care of that.”

The silly man pops back into the kitchen from the living room, our plates of food balanced in his hands as he gives me a meaningful look that suggests saying no isn’t really an option. Sticking my tongue at him, I cross the space between us and accept my plate. We haven’t picked out a kitchen table yet. I’ve convinced him that we really should have it before the holidays, but he’s skeptical of online shopping and we haven’t decided on a day to visit the furniture warehouse. 

I settle onto my spot on the couch, my laptop already set up on a chair opposite our sitting space to give us something to watch. “What are you in the mood for tonight, Mr. Carter?”

Mouth already too full of orange chicken, he gives me a shrug and motions for me to click something. Rolling my eyes at his silly expression, I turn on the documentary I was in the middle of on my lunch break at work. A complex look into numerology and astrology and the way the two sciences might be able to help each other further find answers to the biggest questions of the world. 

“I didn’t know you were so interested in the stars, Lucy.”

I give him a shrug as I spin chow mein noodles around my fork. “I like to watch all sorts of things. The last one was about the ocean.”

He nods along to my words. “I remember. You didn’t like the giant squids.”

“The purpose of the video was to talk about recycling and cleaning up the ocean. They didn’t need to traumatize me with clips of the scariest aliens in the universe.”

Ashby throws his head back and chuckles like I’m the most hilarious person ever. I love his laugh. I love the way that he lets the sound vibrate from his chest to his mouth like he’s savoring every part of it. It reminds me that he hasn’t always had a happy life.

Rather than get into our crappy origin stories, I focus on the computer screen as dictionary definitions for different words flash across the video. Ashby munches next to me, the sound competing with the calm voice of the documentary. He’s an impeccable eater when anybody else is here, but an absolute gremlin when we’re alone. 

He trusts me enough to be himself. 

That thought settles like a brick in my stomach. It knocks the wind from my chest. I almost choke on my last bite of food.

He trusts me. 

Me?

I was a mess when we met. I’m still a giant mess. Ashby Carter flaunts our relationship. He shows me off and then stands back when it’s my turn to perform. I don’t know what to say other than he’s absolutely perfect. Even my mom liked him. 

I just don’t know if I’ll ever be enough. 

He’s had eighty years of life before running into me. There’s no way for me to bridge that kind of experience. I’m making shit up as I go. Whether at work where I challenge my boss for more hours and to give me creative freedom or out at any of the fancy restaurants Ashby wants to try after dressing me up in all sorts of colored fabrics, I always feel a bit out of my own depth. 

Everyone else has their shit figured out and I’m over here watching videos steeped in conspiracy theories. 

Real sexy, Lucy. That’s what gets a guy to stay. 

“Do you think any of this has real substance to it?” He asks next to me, his hand halfway raised to his mouth with a piece of broccoli while he arches an eyebrow at me. 

I knew he wasn’t going to like it. “We can watch something else.”

He drops his fork and grabs my wrist before I can click the laptop mouse and put myself out of this misery. “Why? I’m enjoying it.”

I shake my head. “You think it’s silly.”

Confusion clouds his dark eyes. “It’s not silly. I think it’s interesting. You’re interesting, Lucy, and I’ve never seen this topic discussed before. I just wanted to know if you think it’s real?”

It might be foolish of me to tell the truth, but I can’t lie to him, so I nod my head. “I hope so. I’d like to believe that there isn’t necessarily an omniscient spirit carving out our lives, but that the universe has a hand in crafting fate. How else would I have run into you and fallen in love?”

Pink colors his cheeks. “You don’t think my good looks and awkward tendencies had anything to do with falling in love?”

His hand is still on my wrist, those cool fingertips pressing against my pulse as I smile at him. “It might have done a little something. We’re basically opposite astrological signs, so I guess the universe didn’t technically set us up for success.”

Questions flit over his features. It’s not a night for questions. My scientist can’t focus on anything else until he thinks he has an entire problem solved. I tug him close and silence him with a kiss. 

Ashby melts against me, his immediate reaction to deepen our intimate touch as he carefully balances his plate in his other hand. This. I could do this every day and I believe that we were destined to stay together. 

Tears threaten to spill. I need a moment to myself. Just to gather my thoughts and compose myself. My emotions are sitting right under the surface of my skin. They’re pushing and pushing and going to spill over if I can’t go take a deep breath and calm down. 

“Where are you going?”

I barely manage to lean back and disentangle myself from the man. Off the couch. I have to move and get space and… and I don’t know what else, but I can’t draw a full breath and there’s tears already blurring my vision. 

Crap. I don’t want him to see me like this. 

I don’t have a way to answer. Shaking my head at Ashby’s next words, I leave at a slight jog, taking my entire plate with me to the bathroom as I close and lock the door behind me. I let the plate sit on the edge of the sink as I settle onto the ledge of the bathtub. There’s no stopping the tears. 

I bury my face in my hands, but it’ll never be enough to silence the sobs coming out of me. Ashby can hear. He can hear everything. Usually, it’s cute, but right now I don’t need him privy to my mental breakdown. 

As always, he’s there anyway, his voice low on the other side of the door. “Lucy? Did I say something wrong?”

No. 

He could never say anything wrong. That’s the problem. 

I’m the problem and I have no idea how to express that without him coming to the rescue like a vampire in shining armor. 

“I can’t help if you don’t talk to me, Lucy.”

My chest is so tight. I stagger to my feet and stare at my red face in the mirror. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to feel better. How’s a girl like me supposed to wake up every day next to someone like him and feel like the world isn’t going to tear us apart?

He’s too good to be true. 

There’s some crinkling on the other side of the door. Ashby must have brought his food, too. I listen to him rustle in the hallway as I grab a handful of toilet paper and attempt to fix the mess that is my face. 

“You believe in constellations bringing people together, right?”

It’s not exactly how I would usually phrase the concept of astrology, but I don’t bother correcting him as we continue to speak through the door. “Yeah,” my voice leaves me in a croak, the traitorous vocal cords doing nothing to mask the fact that I’m upset from the caring man waiting for me. 

There’s a snap and then Ashby’s voice filters through the wood once more. “So, do fortune cookies fall into the same category? Like fate has a way of making sure you get the right words at the right time?”

“I suppose.”

“I hope so, because mine says,” there’s a dramatic pause as he pulls the paper out from the cookie. “You will marry your lover.”

I let out a hiccup as I smile at myself in the mirror. “Marriage, Ashby? Is that something you’re already thinking about?”

“It’s something I would like to think about with you. You’re my everything, Lucy Lore.”

Here he goes again. Telling me that I’m amazing. He’ll confess to our empty hall that I bring magic into his life. The walls of this house have heard every way he can possibly phrase the words I love you. Ashby Carter loves loudly and on repeat. 

He deserves a girl who does the same.

“What if you find someone who is better?”

“That’s impossible. I want you, Lucy. I’m not going to change my mind.”

For a genius, Ashby can be so thick sometimes. I don’t want to spell out my insecurities to him. I don’t even know if I can find the words to do so, but we’re clearly not going to continue our evening until I can, so I try my best to get it out. 

“What if we get fifteen years down the line and you realize that I’m annoying or I just stop fitting into your life? You have a whole family that’s immortal. I haven’t even met your older brother. What if he hates me and you decide to take his side?”

I wish I could see him. He probably has his forehead on the door as he listens to each and every syllable of my ridiculous monologue. 

“Love isn’t something that just happens to people, Lucy. It’s a choice. I’ve made it every day since you patched me up after the carnival and I’ll continue to make it every day after that. I want everything you’ll give me and I’ll never think you’re boring or annoying or not enough.”

“But how do you know?” I’m yelling the words at my reflection, the stupid girl in the mirror pressing me to get to the bottom of this before we lose our heart completely to that man out there. 

“I just do, Lucy.”

Hot tears streak down my cheeks. It’s not enough. I can’t base my entire future on him just happening to think he knows something.

“I was born in 1926, Lucy Lore. Since then, I’ve survived war and been transformed into something more than human. I’ve loved one person before you and only stopped when he threw me out of his life.” There’s a short pause as he takes a shuddering breath on the other side of the door, the impact of those words rattling me to my bones. “I’m not asking you to be certain about this right now, but I’ve lived long enough to know when I want something, someone, and I will never give up on you. If you asked me to leave, Lucy, I would, but I wouldn’t stop loving you.”

That’s it. The right combination of words to thaw the icy hold my emotions have had on my heart. I leave the sink in a near sprint, fumbling with the lock and crashing out into the hall. 

Later, he’s going to lecture me about how hard it is to get fried rice off of the floor. Now, though, he doesn’t say anything about the plate of food on the floor, the sweet and sour sauce exploded over both of our ankles. I wrap my arms around him and bury my face in his shoulder.

“Just tell me if you ever start to resent me.”

He chuckles into my hair, promising that my worst fears will never come.

Author’s Note

This blog post was a special request from my number one fan and amazing spouse. She’s the entire reason behind my Lore series becoming a published sequence and I can’t so no when she begs for more Lucy and Ashby scenes.

Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this week’s story and be sure to check out Lore on kindle vella to catch up with these two characters: Lore

As always, please take an extra moment to read my writing partner’s story as well! Let’s go to the ocean by Bridgette White

Have a great night and we’ll see you next Saturday!

Posted in Lore

Lore

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Episode 16 of my kindle Vella is now available!

Follow along as Ashby takes Lucy on a romantic, birthday adventure.

The first 3 episodes are always free and a token system is used after that to unlock each chapter. Check it out to see the background love story that develops between Lucy Lore and Ashby Carter.

Read it here! Lore by Angelica Reece

Posted in Character Stories

News

“Ashby!”

A hand towel thrown over my shoulder, I look down at the list of ingredients for this recipe again while Lucy bounds in from the other room. Cooking is still difficult. Baking is impossible. She wants me to make cherry blossom cookies from some handwritten recipe her mother gave her a lifetime ago. It, however, is not going well. 

Unconcerned with my baking implements or her personal safety, she hops up onto the counter. Flour coats the side of her leg. Her dazzling eyes snag on my boxers and then bare chest before meeting my gaze. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the way she devours me without any hesitation. There’s no way to describe the way my chest begins to flutter at her mere presence. Lucy is magic and that’s all I truly know in this world. 

“Yes, Lucy?”

She flips her phone towards me, the bright screen jittery in her hold as I try to read the bold words: Archaeologists in Poland Just Unearthed the Remains of a 17th Century Vampire. My fingers wrapped around her wrist in order to steady the device, I read the heading twice while I try to suppress a smile. I think I already know what she’s going to say. 

“Did you know her?”

Yep. That’s it. Grabbing a pinch of flour off of the counter, I flick it onto her tank top while I shake my head. “How old do you think I am again, Lady Lore?”

She laughs, scooping up flour and sprinkling it into my hair. “Just old enough, Mr. Carter. Seriously, though, I know you couldn’t have known her while she was alive, but do you know about the vampires in Poland?”

I shrug. “Ivan supposedly comes from there. He might have known her.”

Turning the phone back to herself, she scrolls further down to show me details of how the poor woman was buried. A sickle over her throat and a padlock on her left toe. It makes for a great story, but would be effectively useless against an actual creature of the night. Not that I’m volunteering to test that theory. I think being buried alive is one of the worst punishments in this world. I’ve lived through it and I won’t do it again. 

“Apparently, she had large front teeth, so the community thought she was either a witch or a vampire.”

I work on putting all of my ingredients together as I shake my head at her. “You’ve likely met more than a few vampires in your life, Luc. We don’t walk around with our fangs showing.”

Waving my reply off, she continues to scroll. “This anthropologist down at the bottom says that the fear of vampirism has always been thought of as an outside issue in these old towns, but this woman seems to have been a wealthy occupant of the community. That’s so horrible! Her own people likely turned on her because she got sick.”

“People have died for less, love.”

She pushes my shoulder. “You’re so pessimistic today, Ashby!”

I pull myself away from the cookie dough long enough to give her a lopsided grin. “Death is something that has been put into artwork for centuries. Talking about it doesn’t stop it from existing. I didn’t know this woman. I just know that she’s likely not a vampire.”

The oven chimes to let me know it’s hot enough to start baking the cookies. Lucy pulls the mixing bowl closer to herself and starts spooning cookies out onto the already lined tray. She’s quiet. I don’t’ push her to say anything. Instead, I give her a moment to process what she’s read and come up with the questions I know she’ll want to ask next. 

There was a time in my life that I built a metaphorical wall between me and anything else. When I met Lucy it became a chain link fence, letting good moments filter through between us. Now, there’s nothing but comfortable silence as she scoops my poorly mixed dough onto the tray. 

“Do you think you’ll ever have to bury me?”

The words are so quiet, I would’ve thought they came from the back of my mind if I hadn’t seen her lips move. Panic swells through my chest. Yes. I’ve thought about death for months now. I know how it looms over the naive, more than willing to take a life before it’s ready to go. Death will not come for me. Try as I might, it seems to pull away every chance I give it, but it could definitely hurt me more by coming after this woman on the kitchen counter. 

“Why would you ask?” I finally make myself say, depositing the first tray of cookies into the oven and leaning against its warm front to give myself a way to stay grounded in this tumultuous conversation. 

She shrugs, eyes down as she starts dishing cookies onto the next tray. “I’m a syren. I have magic and I’m pretty cool, but I don’t know what my expected life span is supposed to be. My mom left so early, you know?”

I nod and cross the space between us. She spreads her legs to allow me to slip between them until I’m close enough to hold her warm body to mine. Her head on my shoulder, I hear her sniffle and my heart breaks. 

“I’m going to find a way to never have to leave you, Lucy Lore. I’ll do whatever it takes, okay? Vampires have been taking on mortal companions since the beginning of time. I’m different since I’m a man-made vampire rather than a naturally occurring phenomenon, but I know there’s an answer out there.” 

It’s the best I can give her. Research on this subject hasn’t been the easiest to find. There’s too many unaccounted variables for me to make any positive assumptions. All I know is that it’s possible and I’m the scientist that can figure it out. 

Nothing is going to take me from Lucy. 

She sniffs again and then leans back, giving me a chance to wipe the tears from her face. “Do you promise?”

My chest aches at the way her voice cracks and I immediately nod as I press my forehead to hers. “Yes. I promise that nothing will part us, Lucy Lore. Death can try, but I will always find my way back to you.”

She presses a kiss to my nose. “I promise, too.”

Author’s Note

This week is just a short and sweet scene between Ashby and Lucy since they’ve been on my mind. I completely stumbled across the article detailing the recently discovered vampire and thought it would be a fun conversation between these two. Obsessed with vampires, it was a fun week to dig into some different myths and legends surrounding the death and captures of these infamous creatures.

If you have been following these two in my Lore series on Kindle Vella, you’ll be excited to know that episode eleven will be available this afternoon!

If you haven’t check it out yet, use this link to follow Ashby and Lucy through the beginning of their romance: Lore by A. D. Reece

As always, Bridgette has a story for this week’s prompt and it would mean the world to us if you read that as well:

Have a great Saturday! I’ll be here next week 🙂

Posted in Character Stories

Artists

It looks like my silent visitor is back today. Tucked into a secluded booth usually reserved for V.I.P. guests during the shows, Miles slowly unpacks his art bag with a determined expression. I work through the rest of the steps to the dance I’ve been choreographing for the hotel’s latest show as I watch his gentle brushstrokes onto the canvas. 

Once more with music. 

I click the remote in my pocket. A popular pop song about pondering love blares through the speakers. Miles jolts in his seat, his wild eyes scanning the room. Sometimes I forget that he isn’t used to loud noises. 

Turning the volume down to a whisper, I step through the dance. My focus isn’t on the movements, though. It’s on the way Miles has switched from watercolor paints to a charcoal pencil as his gaze flicks back and forth between me and his work. I wonder what he sees up here. Probably a girl with her life together. At least, I hope I’m managing to pull that much off these days.

The last thing I need is my boss learning from his husband that I am not emotionally competent at the moment. I swear the last three years have shaved a decade off of my life. I’m still a dancer. I still sing. However, if anyone is looking close enough, they’ll notice I’m just going through the motions. 

I run through the dance twice more, sure that I can teach it to the weekend crew. Matthew Krawlski asked for better dances or he would change the entertainment deployment, throwing some of these hardworking dancers out of a job or back into the serving industry they are trying their best to escape. 

I’ve known a hero or two in my lifetime. Good people who gave their lives to better causes than themselves. That’s not who I am, but I think people deserve a chance to fight for their happiness and success, so I’m going to give all I can to these new shows opening at Matthew’s hotel lounge and bar. 

Sweat drips from my hairline as I step off of the stage on tired legs. Dabbing at my face and neck with some napkins, I toss them into a trash can on my way to Miles’ table. It’s not very often the mysterious man is left alone with me. It’s not very often he’s let out of his apartment. Matthew must be too busy to take him out on a proper date. Whether or not he’s attempting to make up for it by letting Miles linger down here isn’t really my business. I think I’ll just take a few minutes to keep Miles company before I head back home and start working on the dance routines for my own club. 

Sliding into the booth across from him, I give him a gentle wave and a big smile. “How are you today, my artist friend?”

His returned grin is a mixture of embarrassed and proud as he points to the canvas he started working on when he got here. The sketch is incredible. A large skull. The impressive shading makes it look like I could reach out and grab it. In each of the eye sockets, he’s carefully painting vivid depictions of the galaxy. It’s beautiful. 

“What does it mean?” 

He pulls out his notepad and jots down a quick note. Does it have to mean something?

I smile at him and shake my head. “Guess not. It’s pretty amazing, though. Has Matthew offered to get you a gallery yet? You must have so much art around your home.”

His nose scrunches. Not very many good pieces.

“Hey,” I tap his note. “Don’t talk about yourself like that. I love your art. You’re a real artist, Miles. The kind of tortured soul that sees more than he could ever say.”

Red brightens his cheeks. Embarrassed. Excited. Some combination of both? Either way, Matthew must not be paying him enough compliments on his work. I’ll just have to make up for it. 

“Can I see what else you were working on?”

That pink stain continues to mar his face as he shakes his head. Not finished.

I shrug. “That’s okay. I won’t judge you. Come on, artist, show me it.”

Biting the corner of his lip, he taps his pencil on the table. Some kind of internal battle is happening behind his brown eyes. I don’t say anything else to pressure him. This is his decision. I won’t take it personally if he’s not ready to share his sketches. 

He returns to writing his notes instead of uncovering the sketch. You’re an artist, Lucy.

I start to shake my head, but he taps his note as if to emphasize his point and then points to the stage. Tears prickle my eyelids. It’s been a long time since someone complimented me for doing more than just my job. 

Before I can come up with a response, he uncovers his sketch and flips it towards me. It’s…Well, it’s me. He has captured my round face and full hips. I’m in just a tank top and leggings today, but this sketch has me in a costume with a plunging neckline and criss-crossing tights. It’s what I wore the last time he came to my show. 

My fingertips flutter over my lips as I stare at the looping lines. He’s captured me with my arms above my head and my expression serious as I stare out at the audience. Not stare. I’m looking for something. For someone. 

Tears burn my eyelids. 

I blink them away to give him a wide smile. “You’re really good at this, Miles. I feel really beautiful in your art.”

His head tilts to the side and then his pencil is moving again across the notepad. You’re sad?

I wave him off. This is not the time and place to admit my own emotional shortcomings. “You’re just so good. I can’t believe someone would draw me.”

He reaches across the table and puts his hand over mine. Tilting his head again, he silently implores for me to say more. 

I almost do. 

The words are clawing at my throat. Vegas has been more than just a difficult transition and the last three years were more than I ever thought I could survive. I’ve had some small successes. I’ve had more failures. I lost everything I thought I needed and survived. 

I’m cut off from explaining myself by a shadow drifting over our table. Matthew Krawlski stops next to Miles, his dark gaze pinned to the spot our hands are connected. I should move. I should walk away. I can’t, though, because Miles tightens his hold on me and bids me to stay with a gentle smile. 

“Do I pay you to sit around, Miss Lore?”

I blow out a slow breath. Smile. Ignore the condescension. A boss is a boss whether I’m home near the Bay or out here in the desert. “I’m not actually on the clock, Mr. Krawlski.” I utter the words with as much polite energy as I can muster, daring him to reprimand me in front of his fragile husband. 

“Miles,” Matthew turns away from me to focus on the real artist at the table. “We have somewhere to be.”

I could have imagined it, but I swear Miles flinched. He pulls his hand away. Everything is happening quickly, but I know his fingertips trembled just slightly before he got his hand off of mine. 

Matthew Krawlski puts on the mask of a good husband. He shows off Miles, forcing him to stay on his arm during big events and make several appearances each month. They have been put on the covers of magazines and interviewed by several large news stations. Of course, the cover of a story isn’t always the truth. 

Miles isn’t really in a position to speak out. He might be good at playing his part as a compliant spouse, but there’s worry in his eyes. He fumbles with his pencil in front of me, ducking his face away from Matthew as he scrawls a signature into the corner of his notebook and rips out the sketch of me. 

“You don’t have to give this to me,” I murmur, gingerly accepting the paper from him as I set aside my worries to focus on this moment. 

He smiles and insists, taking his hands off and waving for me to leave. Ever so carefully, I slide out of the booth with his sketch and grin back at him. 

“This is going to hang in my office, Miles. I really love it.”

I watch as he lays his right hand over his heart and mouths two words: thank you.

It’s such a simple gesture. My chest warm, I step back a few more steps, my smile never leaving my cheeks. I need him to know that I appreciate this. 

What can I do for the husband of the richest man in Las Vegas?

I’ve got it. 

Directing my attention solely on Miles and not on Mr. Krawlski as he hovers over this moment, I hold up one finger to him. “I have something for you, too.”

I run to my bag near the edge of the stage before either of them can stop me and pull out the business card from my latest entrepreneurial venture. Crisp, black script cuts across the center of the card: Nabil’s Night Scene. My friend has had the business for a long time, letting it exist as a seedy bar for shady business dealings and mercenaries looking for a night off, but I’m working with her to retheme and make it better. I’ve already got her to agree to let me choreograph some dancers and to let me sing on the weekends. I think she wouldn’t mind letting me convince her to show off some art, too. 

“Whenever you’re ready for people to see your work, call this number. I think I’ve got the perfect spot for you.”

I hold the card out to Miles, but Matthew plucks it out of my hand and shoves it into his breast pocket. “Thank you, Miss Lore. I think that’s quite enough of you today. Please return for your business hours only.”

Matthew Krawlski has the exterior of a model. He’s got the charming smile with a dimple on his left cheek and dark hair to contrast against his blue eyes. On the outside, he’s everything that people look for in a businessman and potential crush. 

Inside, though, there’s something dark and twisted waiting to take an unsuspecting victim in the dead of night. His tone is polite and he smiles at me, but I know there’s ominous implications to his words. I can come back when I’m scheduled. Matthew doesn’t want me anywhere near Miles. Failure to comply will risk my job and possibly more. 

Ducking back towards the stage, I grab my things off of the ground and sling my bag over my shoulder while I continue to hold Miles’ sketch with all of the care it deserves. I’m out of the employee entrance a moment later. 

I don’t glance back to see Miles, but I hope someday he has a chance to reach out to me.

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday, guys! Thanks for reading this week’s prompt. I hope you all enjoyed a little Lucy and Miles scene. Come back next week to see what happens!

As always, please check out my partner’s blog as well!

Bridgette White: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/09/03/the-broken-shell-a-short-story/

Posted in Character Stories

Parent Problems

Lucy moved in three weeks ago. Between her boss being an ass and me having extra space, there was no reason for her to not. She showed up with two boxes and a handful of garments draped over her arms. I carried in the rest of her possessions from the taxi and set them down on the couch while she settled into my arms to make the official announcement. 

We live together. 

I don’t regret a single moment of it. 

There’s a thud in the other room. Scratch that other comment. 

I don’t regret Lucy being here. I could never get tired of her company and positive energy and the way her things have started to fill up my shelves and closet even though I gave her dedicated areas for it. We look together. My vintage records are interspersed with figurines she adores and little pictures from her time at various burlesque clubs. She’s managed to make the kitchen a more functional room and turned the guest room into a changing area for her costumes. Our toothbrushes share a cup in the bathroom and we share a bed. It’s really the best of everything I could wish. 

Another thud. Okay. I’m up. 

Lucy is sprawled across the mattress, somehow taking more than half of it as her arms and legs spread in opposite directions, my green comforter tucked around her while I’ve been freezing for most of the night. I could get a new blanket from the other room, but then I wouldn’t be sharing the one she’s under. I don’t mind being cold. I don’t think I’d be able to sleep if I couldn’t constantly feel the warmth of her sleeping body and listen to the light snores she would never admit to having. 

A rip sounds through the otherwise silent house. 

There’s one problem with Lucy moving in. 

I listen to paws scamper across the tiled floor of the kitchen, the damn thing moving like a rhinoceros on a rampage. I’m on my way. Coming. One slipper on my right foot, I slide my foot around the floor as I blindly search for the other. There’s another rip. 

Forget the other slipper. I can’t rush into this battle fully prepared. I just have to get out there and tear the tiny puppy teeth out of whatever he has managed to destroy now. 

“Dorian,” I whisper yell into the air, using the name we decided on because I’ve always been an Oscar Wilde fan and Lucy enjoys a more contemporary fantasy series with a prince who shares the same name. 

There’s more pitter pattering of tiny paws as the little monster realizes somebody else is in the house for him to terrorize. His head pops out from behind the corner of the wall that leads to the kitchen. A piece of my black slipper dangles from his mouth. 

“Dorian!” 

The puppy lets out a grumbling yap and then takes off as I step towards him. I stumble into a mess in the kitchen that would make an active werewolf proud. Feathers from one of the couch pillows are strewn through the room, some still floating in the air as the little dog bounces away from me. He’s managed to bump the table hard enough to spill the latest bouquet of flowers I brought home to Lucy, decorating the disaster in splashes of green and pink and yellow from the stems and petals. I don’t even want to think about the creature managing to get into a cupboard just to chew up apples and lemons. He didn’t eat the fruit. Just gnawed on it and left it on the floor for me to pick up. 

My heart hammers against my chest. This isn’t going to work. Lucy is amazing. She’s the love of my life, but this, this is far more than I signed up for. 

Red creeps into the edges of my vision as I watch the ball of fluff roll in his mess and then go back to chewing on my shoe. I knew I should have told Lucy no. She walked home from a job interview three days ago and found him in an abandoned box. They were both wet and shivering from the late hour. There was no way for me to be heartless and tell her the pup had to go. 

This is different, though. He is dry and fed and an absolute terror in the face of the kindness I’ve bestowed upon him. 

Light footsteps sound behind me, the only indication that Lucy is about to sneak up on me. I flinch as her fingers skate along my spine. Breathe, Ashby. Breathe and calm down. This is an irrational reaction to uncertain circumstances. 

Lucy doesn’t shy away from my red eyes and odd behavior. Instead, she loops an arm around my hips and pulls me towards her. “Hey. We can do this.”

All of my threats to throw the puppy back onto the street evaporate. Of course we can do this. She and I can do anything together. 

I wrap my arms around her and kiss her forehead. “I didn’t think parenting a dog would be so difficult.”

She laughs into my shoulder. “You’re doing better than my mom. She abandoned me the second things got hard. We can stick together and help him. He doesn’t know any better, Ashby.”

Yeah. Right. I survived a world war and the transition into a vampire, but Lucy had a far more fucked up childhood. This is important to her. I’ll do anything I can to help her if this is something she needs. 

“Do you want to sweep or start coffee?” I ask as the muddled colors of my vision finally clear. 

She takes the broom immediately, sweeping the pieces into a pile in the center of the room, her giggle filling the space as Dorian flounces in the shifting mess. He catches the end of the broom in his sharp teeth, shaking his head from side to side with a growl. Boiling water for our coffee, I watch the exchange. Lucy and Dorian on opposite ends of the black utensil, laughter and grumbles filling the room. 

This. She needs this. 

I watch the two of them for a moment. Dorian wobbles on his end, unsure of his feet and round body. Lucy lets him win, though. She puts on a big show of losing control of her end of the broom before lowering it to the ground. He pulls it several feet, his short tail blurring as he celebrates his success. Lucy chases after him, tucking her arms around his chubby body and hefting him into the air. 

Pure joy filters through Lucy’s green eyes. The pup yips and wriggles in her arms. The two of them together are the picture of a happy home. 

My happy home. 

I prepare the coffee and move to join them, tip-toeing around the mess until I’m on the other side of Lucy. I take a sip of my hot drink and then offer it to the beautiful woman in my kitchen. That’s not what she wants, though. 

Grabbing me by the back of my neck, she drags me down, kissing me like the lovestruck fool I am. Dorian joins in on the action, licking our chins and grumbling about his squished position. I laugh, patting the little monster on his head. 

.     .     .

I’ve slept less than five hours this week. Dorian is a whirlwind pup that needs to have constant supervision lest he destroy something else in my house. Most of the cupboards now have chew marks on the bottom of their doors. The couch is covered in his thick fur. There’s no correct placement for the furniture anymore. Already growing, Dorian bowls through everything in his way, a tornado ready to take out my home’s interior while I hastily put it back together. 

Lucy has a plan. She squeezes my hand before hefting Dorian into her arms. We’re going on a family walk. Just two lost adults trying to figure out how other people manage to train these feral creatures. 

It’s raining outside, the cold streets of the Bay filled with wind and water. My umbrella wavers in my hold as I try to keep it over Lucy and Dorian. It doesn’t matter if I’m wet. My tailor would yell at me for treating my vests this way, but I don’t care. They’re my priority.

It’s a short walk to the pet store, Dorian wriggling in Lucy’s arms the entire time as he attempts to nip the end of our black umbrella. Naughty pup. Mischievous mutt. He’s going to grow up to have Lucy’s total lack of fear in the face of the world, ready to take everything he can with his front paws and floppy ears. 

As if to give into my theory, the customer service members at the front of the little store completely fall over each other to get to Lucy first, all cooing words and pleas to pet the rambunctious creature that has overturned my life. Lucy lets the two women pet Dorian for a few moments before she starts to tell them about our predicament. In a matter of minutes, Lucy and Dorian are whisked away to the back of the store to talk about training instruments and other puppy needs. 

This is her thing. I let her go, her focus solely on giving this stray animal a good life as she happily takes all of the advice the team members can give her. Wandering on my own, I glance at pictures on the wall behind the service counter. There’s sketches of animals done by children: a cat in green crayon, three dogs in a rainbow selection, turtles, lizards, and several birds outlined by a thoughtful adult and then scribbled in by anxious toddlers. 

My chest tightens. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Lucy kiss the top of Dorian’s head as he melts into her hold. I’ll never be able to give her this. Children aren’t really the point of genetically altered vampires. I’m a lab experiment gone right. There’s plenty of research on syrens and vampires, but none of them are exactly like me and her. 

We haven’t even had the sex talk. The woman showed up with her things, took over the spare room, and then begged to share my bed when she realized I only had a cot in the other room. I don’t regret a single moment of it, but there are hard things we’ll have to discuss if we want this to last for as long as we both live. 

Shaking off the sad thoughts, I watch her find a green collar with a bow tie and fit it to the puppy. It’s my favorite shade. Green like her eyes. She marks the pup as an official member of our family, accepting a small metal tag for his identification information. The team members have nothing better to do, so they find him a matching harness and leash set that’s meant to expand as he gets bigger. One of them leaves and brings back a cart full of supplies that they assure Lucy is all necessary for our little guy. 

So quickly, Lucy glances to me and bites the corner of her lip. It’s the most nervous I’ve ever seen her. For once, I get the chance to play Prince Charming and dash in to save my damsel in distress. 

“We’ll take it all,” I tell them as I step over. 

Lucy’s eyes widen, but she doesn’t contradict me until the two women have left for the counter. “I’m between jobs right now, Ashby. As much as I love this dog, I can’t exactly afford all of that right now.”

“I can.”

Resting Dorian on one hip, she puts her other hand on her opposite hip as she looks up at me with a look of absolute disbelief. “Way to rub it in my face that you’re super old and have made good investments.”

That’s not what I expected her to say. I can’t help the laugh bubbling up through my chest. “What if I actually worked for the money I have?”

“That’s so much worse. You already spoil me nonstop. I won’t let you spend your life savings on us.” She quirks an eyebrow at me, her bottom lip trembling. 

Oh. This is an important conversation. I was standing in the corner dreading how I would eventually get this woman to talk to me about our future and it’s already here for us to deal with. 

I reach out and pet Dorian’s nose, his chubby body gelatin in Lucy’s hold as he tries to sleep off the excitement of the last few moments. “What if I want to do that?”

She shakes her head. “I already have to replace your slippers and we both know I can’t really afford the stylist you employ. You can’t do this much for me.”

Tears glimmer in her bright eyes. I have to say the right thing. This is a big moment, a foundational conversation for us to move forward. 

Gently, so scared to look at her too hard but unable to keep from touching, I caress her cheek. “I won’t do something you don’t want, Lucy, but I want to take care of you. I want to take care of him. I,” there’s no stopping the words as they tumble out of my mouth, “want a life with you, a happily ever after with some version of a family, and I want to start that sooner rather than later. Today is as good a time as any.”

She sniffs, her lips quivering. “He ate all of your couch cushions.”

“He just has expensive tastes like me,” I smirk, begging her with my eyes to let herself give into my touch and my words and walk out of this place a stronger couple than when we walked in. 

That does it. She breathes out a shaky giggle, rustling the puppy who gives his own yowl of approval with a shake of his tail. 

“I think I want this, too,” she says, those emerald eyes threatening to drown me if I continue to meet her gaze. “I didn’t know that when I quit my job and showed up or when I brought him home, but I feel safe with you. I like to spend time with you. I don’t know what the future really holds for me, but I might like it more if you promised to do it with me.”

There’s no reason to stop and think this through. I stopped thinking rationally when she plucked my wallet out of my pocket all of those months ago. Lucy Lore has put a beating heart back into my cold chest and I will let the world burn around us if that’s what it takes to keep her in my life. 

“I promise.”

“Me too,” she whispers, lifting on her tip-toes in order to press a kiss to the corner of my lips. 

I steal the dog from her then, nuzzling my face into his thick hair and staring into his blue eyes. “Let’s go get you checked out, Dorian. We have plenty of puppy training for you to do this afternoon.”

Lucy hooks her fingers around my elbow and trails us to the counter. My heart could float from her sheer proximity. I thought this pup was a bucketful of problems. Rather, he’s the solution to so many bigger concerns. 

Lucy and I are going to be parents together. Her, me, and Dorian. 

It’s the best kind of family.

Author’s Note

Guys, I completely panicked when I first read this prompt! I did not know who or what I was going to write about. My wife gave me the idea of Lucy and Ashby adopting a puppy, so I‘m incredibly excited to now incorporate a dog into the general body of my novels. Ashby is such a fun and unique character to explore through these stories as he isn’t a major POV character in my novels and is generally viewed as a “bad guy” by the others.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this cute story as much as I did writing it!

Please be sure to check out my writing partner’s blog for Bridgette’s short story on an elderly couple dealing with the problem of booming bubbles: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/07/30/challenge-week30/

Posted in Character Stories

Syren

My brother laughed when I asked for a roadmap to the nearest rare book store. “Nobody uses those anymore, Ash. Invest in GPS.”

“And give the larger powers of this world a way to track my every movement? No, thank you.”

Seth shakes his head at me, one bulky shoulder leaned into my fridge as he drinks my last bottled beverage without any sign of remorse. “Why don’t I just take you?”

I roll my eyes. I didn’t ask for him to stop in, I never do, but he’s here and he’s not going to leave me alone until I agree to his help. “Fine. I’m not answering any questions, though. I just need you to drop me off.”

He sets the empty, plastic bottle on the counter. “I’m definitely going in with you.”

“No. That is not in our agreement.”

He shrugs. “I’m not ditching you somewhere far from your house, Ashby.”

I cross my arms over my chest and stare across the room at the man who holds no familial resemblance to me. The years have been harsh to us. We haven’t aged past twenty-eight, but there’s a dark depth to his blue eyes that tells me he hasn’t even begun to forget the horrors of the last eighty years even though he smiles and jokes at every chance. Seth looks like our father with his short, blond hair and bright gaze. I look more like Gideon. We both got our mother’s dark hair and dark eyes coupled with the heavy bags smeared into our eternally youthful skin. 

“Come on. I don’t have all day. Get your ass outside or you’ll have to walk there,” Seth says as he pulls his car keys from his pocket. 

“I was fine walking there,” I grumble back, snagging my jacket from the edge of the couch. 

Seth passes me on his way to the front door in board shorts and a tank top. 

“It’s like sixty five, Ash. You can leave the jacket here.”

I shake my head as I pull the dark piece over my shoulders. “It completes my ensemble.”

I swear I hear him laughing as he steps out onto the porch. I let my own lips twitch into a smile. Seth is obnoxious, but he’s my brother, so he can get away with it. There’s no one else I’d rather be doomed to live an eternity with. 

Well, there’s one person. 

It’s a maybe. 

I have to do my research and see if she and I have a chance at forever. 

We climb into Seth’s car. He never bothers to buckle. I click my own seatbelt in, relaxing back into the leather seat. The last thing I need to worry about during a car accident is my virus trying to eat people. I’d rather have as little injuries as possible and a rational part of the aftermath. 

“I’m a good driver,” Seth grumbles anyway. 

We’ve had this argument before. I don’t answer. My seatbelt is on and I’m nearly indestructible. We’ll make it to the bookstore. 

I watch him click in a search on his car computer and then select the nearest location. It’s thirty-seven minutes away. This is going to be a long ride. 

.     .     . 

It’s fifty-four minutes later when he finally finds a parking spot behind the bookstore. Fifty-four minutes of evading his attempts to ask me about my life and listening to his poor renditions of songs from the last three decades instead of turning on the radio. I have my seatbelt off before he parks the car. 

“You can just wait in the car,” I try one last time to keep him out of my business, my car door open already as he finally parks. 

Seth shoots me a stupid grin. “Not gonna happen, mon frére.”

I have some choice words to call him in French, but I keep them to myself as I step out and slam the door. This is not how today was supposed to go. I’m going to have to search this place in the next two hours and get him back on the road. Lucy’s show starts promptly at six and I have to be in the front row. 

I can’t let her down. 

Sure he’ll follow without having to watch for him, I stride towards the front of the building, walking around a large elm tree overhanging the left side of the quaint shop. A small bell dangling on the end of a piece of twine chimes when I open the door. I step inside to the faint scent of eucalyptus and something else old and bitter. A single elderly woman sits behind the counter to my right, tipping her head towards me in a welcome before returning to the riveting story in her lap. Dark shelves crammed full of books fill the space in front of me with just barely enough space for an average sized person to squeeze between them.

This has to be the place. 

Seth is still outside, his attention focused on the helicopter flying over this area. He refuses to call them anything besides choppers. All sorts of aviation information has held a special place in his heart since the late seventies. 

Great. I just need a moment to ask this woman a quick question. “Do you have a mythology section?” I murmur quietly, standing several feet back from the counter as I try my best to disturb her as little as possible. 

With a nod and a finger point, she directs me to the back corner of the building. Good enough. It’s a starting point for this adventure. Seth steps in as I slip between the shelves. 

“I’ll be up here if you need me, Ash.”

I leave him in the fiction section with a wave. I’m on a mission. I need information, credible accounts and histories about syrens. They weren’t supposed to be real. Of course, vampires aren’t supposed to be real, either, and I haven’t found a way to lose the parasitic virus that overtook my system in the late forties. If we’re being honest, everything that is in stories nowadays was real at some point. 

Syrens, though, went extinct. 

The last one was taken sometime around the turn of the century. I don’t remember much. I should have cared more at the time, but I was drowning in my own problems and avoiding Gideon. My brother was upset, though. Not punch a hole through a wall mad, but sinking to his knees in the center of a public square because the news took the strength from his legs. 

His friend, I think it was Raleigh, did something bad. He took a syren and ran experiments. The last syren. 

But that can’t be true anymore because Lucy exists. 

I let my fingertips run over the battered bindings of the old books. This first one is about a necromancer. Interesting, but not what I’m looking for. Come on, come on, come on. There has to be something here. 

There’s an entire section dedicated to vampires. We are incredibly intriguing, but most of that is false conjecture perpetuated by Stoker’s fiction. Werewolves and other human and animal creations. There’s a series on modern witches, the entire collection embossed with different runes. A few small novels boast covers with rare species like djinn or fairies. 

My eyes snag on a green cover with a water lily painted across its surface. Kelpies. Not exactly what I’m looking for, but it’s the closest thing to a water-based creature I’ve seen, so I tuck it under my left arm and continue my search.

Kraken. Loch Ness Monster. Selkis. An entire short story covers sea serpents with vivid illustrations of their winding bodies and bloodied fangs. 

I didn’t realize so many myths sprang from the depths of the ocean. The last thing I want to do is have Seth drive me anywhere else, so I sink down to my knees and start to browse the bottom shelves. 

There. 

Sirens and Other Untamed Women 

That’s it. That’s her. My Lucy Lore. 

No longer caring about the fibers of this questionable carpet sticking to my pants, I lean back into a sitting position with the book spread over my crossed legs. Powerless to the desire to know more about her, my eyes skim the yellowed pages, sifting through sentence after sentence in order to figure out fact from fiction. 

There are personal accounts from sailors and naval commanders. I know most of those have been debunked, so I skip past it. I don’t have time for manatees. I’m here for real information about the girl who stole both my wallet and my heart. 

She smelled like the ocean and magic coated her words. It’s the only reason I suspected her to be more than a human. If she exists, there has to be something in these books that connects her to the rest of her world. 

Vampires and syrens once had a symbiotic relationship. The original vampires didn’t infect already living humans. They had children in the more traditional sense. Erisa Nabil is proof of that. 

If the syrens could procreate with those ancient beasts, there had to be love between them right? 

Love lives forever. There had to be a way to keep the syrens alive for the duration of the vampires’ life. 

That’s all I truly need to know. 

To take the next step, to commit to this, I need a plan to make it last forever. 

If she wants, of course. 

I’ve lost enough over the last several decades. I won’t be forced to bury the love of my life as well. Should my research fail, I’ll leave town and let her live a life without me. I’d rather walk away than lose myself entirely. 

“She’s pretty special, then?”

Seth towers over me, the brute a silent force when he wants to be. “I told you I wasn’t answering questions.”

Crouching next to me, he pats my shoulder. “You should try the internet.”

I shrug him off. “The internet is full of fake information, Seth, and I do not have time to deal with false leads right now.”

“Because you want this to work?”

I glance over at his stupid smile. “More than I’ve wanted anything else.”

Together on the floor of a quiet bookshop, he pulls me into a bear hug and lets out an incredibly loud whoop. I ignore the shushing from the woman at the counter and lean into my brother. He’s right. This is a big deal. It’s happening fast, but Lucy makes me feel alive and I can’t let her go without trying to make this work. 

I’ll read every book ever written on the topic of vampires and syrens if that’s what it takes to figure this out. Lucy Lore has wrapped her fist around my heart and I can’t pull away even if I wanted to. For just this one fleeting moment, I let Seth’s enthusiasm carry me. We’re going to make this work. A relationship between a vampire and a syren won’t just be a myth I scrounge up from the dusty pages of old texts, but a fact. 

Lucy Lore and Ashby Carter. 

Together we’ll turn myth into reality.

Author’s Note

Ashby Carter is an incredibly special character in my repertoire. A decade ago, he was a cliche villain who manipulated my female protagonist into some sticky situations before meeting his demise. Today, he’s a morally grey love interest to Lucy Lore who is in a constant battle of trying to live out his dreams with her while not getting dragged into his brothers’ problems or the political drama that surrounds the other vampires.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s prompt!

Be sure to check out other stories for this prompt from my writing partners:

Anna:

Bridgette: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/07/09/challenge-week27/comment-page-1/#comment-7490

I can’t wait to see you next Saturday 🙂